If it's Tuesday…

…I’m not in Belgium, but I’m probably itching to get home. Not exactly a world-traveler type. Although I’ve always wondered about visiting Ephesus.

Bethlehem Crypt at St. Mary Major, burial spot of the fascinating St. Jerome

Today is the day we remember the Dedication of St. Mary Major Basilica, in Rome. When I was a little girl the nuns told us it was built to honor the naming of Mary as the Theotokos: the God-bearer.

Here is what my breviary says about it:

After the Council of Ephesus (431) in which the mother of Jesus was proclaimed as Mother of God, Pope Sixtus III erected at Rome on the Esquiline Hill a basilica dedicated to the honor of the holy Mother of God. It was afterward called Saint Mary Major [In Latin, Basilica Sancta Mariæ Majoris, in Italian, Santa Maria Maggiore - admin] and is the oldest church in the west dedicated to the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Jason at American Inquisition has a most interesting and informative piece on the basilica and its history:

St. Mary Major, however, is a “major” basilica of the Church and, as such, is a kind of “mother church,” if you will, for the entire Church throughout the world. Mary Major is one of four such major basilicas and, along with the other three, St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and St. John Lateran, represents something that universally encompasses the Church. St. Peter’s, for example, represents the primacy of St. Peter as head of the Church; St. Paul’s Outside the Walls represents Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles, that is, to all of us. St. John Lateran is actually the Cathedral of Sts. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist and so represents for us the bridge between the Old Testament and the New found in Christ Jesus, as both proclaimed the Word of God, John the Baptist as the last of the Old Testament prophets and John the Evangelist as the great writer of the fourth Gospel.

…The Basilica dates back to the 5th century and is the oldest church in the West dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and thusly is a powerful reminder not only of the importance of Marian devotion in our own spiritual lives, but also that Marian devotion has been an integral part of the Church practically since its earliest days. The question that naturally arises, of course, is, “Why should we have a devotion to Mary in the first place?”

Thankfully, Jesus answers that question for us in the Gospel reading today. When He is told that His mother is blessed because of Her physical connection with Him, that is, literally being His mother, Jesus replies that that is not, in fact, why She is blessed. He responds, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” So, Mary, though blessed to be the mother of God, is truly blessed because of Her great devotion and fidelity to the word of God and Her faith and trust in Him.

There’s more.

And more pics here.

About Elizabeth Scalia